Sintra is deservedly one of Portugal’s greatest tourist magnets, with flocks of visitors coming to see the city’s historical and architectural wonders. The city also has a booming gastronomical culture, with dozens of restaurants and cafes tucked away. Here we give some suggestions of where to eat when you’re out and about in this wondrous little city.
Restaurant, European, Portuguese, $$$
Restaurante Pendoa serves solid Portuguese favourites. Its opening hours make brunch and lunch the most viable options, with a selection of light or heavier dishes. The restaurant’s modest facade hides a homely inside space, with friendly local service and an authentic atmosphere, and its central location makes it an easy escape for tourists wanting to sample genuine local cooking.
A somewhat better-trodden culinary path leads to Curral dos Caprinos (literally “the goat pen”), a large and spacious restaurant open since 1974, which has become a major favorite. Its location in the outskirts village of Cabriz make it a welcome break for those who are coming off a packed day’s sight-seeing in central Sintra. With a seating capacity above 200, Curral dos Caprinos is no small local hideaway, but has been offering good food for almost four decades.
A little way outside of Sintra proper lies Azenhas do Mar, a spectacular village which gives its name to an equally spectacular beachside venue. Right on the beach-front, this is the perfect place to enjoy the freshest fish whilst gazing out on a romantic sea view. The elevated, modern building is a natural vantage-point from which to watch the sun set on a remarkably unspoiled piece of Portuguese coast-line. Prices reflect the restaurant’s privileged geographical and market position; a must for fine diners.
Back in Sintra city lies Apeadeiro, another local haunt which remains largely unspoiled by the tourist hordes, although a seating capacity of around 100 means that it’s hardly a quiet corner. The menu and its accompanying English picture guide consists largely of genuine regional cuisine. Service here is warm and friendly enough to set any diner at ease, and generous portions ensure good value for money. In traditional Portuguese fashion, guests can expect excellent port and pastries to round off the evening.
From the luxurious Penha Longa resort comes Midori, a Japanese dining experience which is in keeping with the luxury of Penha Longa itself. Midori’s main draw is its sushi, but it is also marked by a strikingly smooth and luminescent modernist decor and, courtesy of its immaculate full-length windows, some fantastic views of the resort’s surrounding countryside. Operating on a buffet on Tuesdays and Saturdays, Midori is nonetheless an upmarket dining experience, and is one of five restaurant’s headquartered at the glitzy resort.
Saudade takes its name from the famously untranslatable Portuguese term approximating to “missing” or “longing”. Excellent for lunches, the building itself is a place of historical interest, having been founded as a specialist bakery for the 19th-century King Ferdinand II, a queijadaenthusiast. Saudade takes evident pride in its place in the community, doubling up as a space for local art, literature and music. A visit here is a no-brainer for any cultural or historical tourist in the Sintra area.
Another tourist favourite is the Restaurante Chefe Pinto’s, conveniently located in the immediate vicinity of the train station and the city’s historic district. This is an excellent general-purpose eatery and a great destination for a family meal. It offers a broad, bilingual menu of meat and fish options with a sharp talent for Portuguese classics like bacalhau. A spacious environment, the restaurant is also a popular option for wedding parties and special occasions.
Integrated into the Sintra Boutique Hotel, the Suntria Café & Restaurant’s view opens up onto the marvellous Sintra National Palace a short distance away. Despite a clean and modern feel, the cafe themes itself to a great extent around the historical mystique of Sintra: its floor is styled on a striking hall at the nearby Moorish-era palace, and various dishes on the menu draw inspiration from the history of the area. There is also a fine selection of wine, including the famous vinho de Colares.
Lawrence’s Hotel is one of the oldest continuously operating hotels in Europe – reputedly, it is the oldest in the Iberian Peninsula. The restaurant has retained its impeccable service, with a broad and high-quality cuisine delivered punctually by friendly staff. Offering a variety of dining spaces and always willing to provide advice on the best nearby sights and beaches, this is a perfect stop to brace yourself for – or recover from – an intense day’s tourism in central Sintra.
A venture of distinguished chef Luis Santos, INcomum draws inspiration from Sintra romanticism. It quickly made a name for itself, perhaps helped by the fact that Santos’ previous endeavor, luxurious Lisbon restaurant Tágide, has also been held in consistently high esteem. INcomum is a flexible dining experience, lending itself to a luxurious evening meal or a more economical lunchtime set-menu.